Purpose The only real way to learn design is by doing. There are some rules and some guideline. In the end, good design comes from rapidly trying lots of alternatives and developing a personal internal sense of what works and what does not. The design critque is a method for generating ideas and examples of work and then having those ideas reviewed by others to see what resonates with other people. This process of review is called a critique.

As a learning process it is helpful to participate in the critique of the work of others. This allows you to learn from other people's work as well as your own.

Steps The steps for a good critique session are as follows:
  • Establish a design brief that sets out the goals, questions and criteria for the ideas to be reviewed.
  • Do the work to meet the design brief
  • Prepare a presentation to explain the work that was done as well as the reasoning behind the work
  • Give the presentation to a group
  • Group discussion of how well the work meets the goals set out in the design brief
  • Synthesis of the key ideas of the discussion
  • Repeat this process as long as resources (time, money) allow and progress is being made
Criticism A critique necessarily involves criticism. This can sometimes feel painful. You worked hard. You are a little frightened of the presentation. You are unsure about what is expected. In the midst of this uncertainty all the flaws in your work and the work of your teammates are publically exposed.

One of the characteristics of design is that by its very nature it is uncertain. At times your work will be criticized for things that you didn't think were expected.

Not all criticism is valuable. There is a fine line between humbly learning from the comments and understanding that the critic is actually wrong and your solution is better. On one side of the line your work is subject to every random opinion that someone thinks of at the moment. On the other side you dogmatically stick to your approach without learning from others. It is a hard and uncertain judgement to make.

In all of our criticisms we should

  • Respect the effort that has led to the presentation
  • Listen to the presentation so that you understand their perspective rather than your own opinion
  • Comment on the work, not the people
  • Give a reason for your comment. "I don't like it" is useless.
Readings Design Criticism and the Creative Process - A good discussion of why we do critiques and how to deal with the various kinds of feedback that we might receive.

How to run a design critque- Introduction to critiques for small groups. Our critiques will be larger, but this will help in understanding the process.